By Gabriel Mashabela- Noordgesig Library
City of Johannesburg (COJ) libraries are always exploring new ways to create, nurture and promote the culture of reading. Since the Covdi19 pandemic, COJ libraries have introduced digital platforms and digital innovations such as their new website, www.cojelearning.org.za, and encouraged the use of educational applications (APPs) and social media platforms such as the “Joburg Libraries” Facebook page. The provision of library services through digital platforms came as a result of responding to the demand for library services during a COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in communities not visiting libraries as much as they used to, due to lockdown restrictions. A notion held by Tshilidzi Marwala (2019; Press reader), is that libraries are becoming less about bricks and mortar and more about access to knowledge in a digital space.
Joburg Libraries Facebook page is used to communicate, and share information, knowledge, and digital content with users and the public in general. The Joburg libraries eLearning website facilitates interaction between city libraries and users and it introduces the public to free digital content such as online courses and Eresource such as ebooks and articles. City of Johannesburg libraries website was launched on 08 September 2021 at Noordgesig library; during the international literacy day (08 September 2021). It was further marketed to the public in November 2021. In addition to free ebooks, the website also offers access to free online courses offered by IBM, Google, and Microsoft. Website visitors can also use the “Ask your Librarian” feature of the website for enquires. Since it was launched in November 2021, the website has attracted over 15 000 visits within 5 months.
COJ librarians promote the use of apps such as Overdrive Libby, and African Story Book (ASb reader) to create a culture of reading. Various productive APPs are also used to create digital content to be accessed by library users. The usage of apps, social media, websites for information services, reading, and writing, demonstrates that City of Joburg librarians are taking advantage of the popularity of these platforms to create and nurture a reading culture. Librarians utilize these digital platforms to ensure that library users are engaged and access library services that were traditionally offered in a face-to-face setting; such as storytelling, Information literacy, career guidance, and other library tailored programs. These efforts will give city libraries a tremendous advantage to meet the diverse information needs of Johannesburg residents, especially in an era, whereby many library users especially youth; believe that “If a source of information is not online; it is as if it doesn’t exist” (Kahle, 2017).
Digital platforms have the capabilities to ensure that reading materials are accessible 24/7, which creates and nurture reading culture as a result of their accessibility and popularity. For example, Overdrive Libby app which offers E-Books ensures that materials are accessible either by reading online or by downloading books to read offline.
Let us encourage our communities to embrace technology, and make use of their smart devices and data to access library services from home, for edcuation and personal development.